November 10, 2010

A Saucerful of Secrets

Pink Floyd,  A Saucerful of Secrets 1968

Unless you live in a cave, you may have heard of a post at the site known as Nerdy Apple Bottom, a fellow Kansas City blogger.  I am not even going to attempt to paraphrase or explain her post.  The post has been the subject of so much conflict and misinterpretation at this point, that you would do well to just read it yourself.

Are you back?

Mostly, I applauded that post because it resonated deeply with me. No, I do not know the blogger in question, but regardless, I could relate to her on a personal level.  We are both mothers of boys the same age.  We both live in the somewhat conservative area of Kansas City (although I live on the Kansas side, the side that is probably more Red, in terms of necks and politics.) We both send our boys to church-affiliated preschools.  We both have boys who like girlie things.

And, oh my.  How I adored that she cracked that secret wide open - the fact that many, many boys like girlie things.  Gasp.

While I applaud the post, I cannot help but feel a bit guilty for this applause knowing that a little boy is now being considered a public face for a very adult cause.  The mother has stated that she was not outing her son.  And I trust her on that.  But the message has grown larger than her original post.

Let me be clear, I do not believe for a moment that she did this as a stunt.  The vilification of her is undeserved, in my opinion..  After all, we have many, many bloggers in our wee mommyblogging community who know how to do stunt posting and they do it quite well.  I emphatically do not think this particular blogger was mongering for traffic.

And I also do not buy for one second all of those folks who say that parents should not have their children support political agendas or be involved in politics at all.  That is ridiculous.  No one sends their child off into the world as a blank slate.  It is that very inherent piece of parenting that dictates you instill important beliefs in which you hold to be true.  You can wordsmith all you want, but politics are always involved in our belief systems.

Still.  I do squirm a little bit at the thought that this boy has been thrust into such public of a light and there now exists a permanent record.  A record that will go stagnant after awhile, perhaps waiting to rise again when the boy is in middle school.

I am uncomfortable with that.  I cannot lie.

I am not throwing stones, folks.  Hell no, I just finished Windexing my own glass house and I would like to keep it all pretty-like.  At least until the dog starts licking the windows again.  And I have publicly stated time and time again that I support gay rights, that I believe it is a human right for someone to choose who they want to honor legally in marriage (since it is always in the back of my mind that it was not so very long ago that my own marriage was illegal in many, many states in America.)

Oh, how I wish that being labeled gay was not considered a backhanded insult or a convenient punchline.  How about that for a thesis statement?

The hardest part is that this post hit me at a time when I was already having a huge existential blogging crisis with myself.  It certainly did not help to watch a post with innocuous intentions blow up so spectacularly on a national level.  I always question what I am doing on my own site and to what extent I should share my children here. Oh sure, it has helped that Erma Bombeck and Teresa Bloomingdale wrote such a respectful, loving treasure trove of books detailing their own family lives. Two classy ladies who can serve as remarkable role models for all of us.   It also helps that I have a small readership, most of whom are friends and family, and that I feel safe here.  However, blogging is still relatively new and we are still unsure as to the long-term effects on our children as they approach more sensitive ages.  It is quite easy to share baby stories and not worry about the awkward years to come.  Yes, this post has had me thinking in regard to what responsibility I owe my children as I share our lives here.

And I am not sure I like some of the answers.


Dawn said...

So you are raising TWO issues here -
1. Adult Issues around sexuality/marriage/legality
2. Can we harm our children through blogging?

In some ways the internet is a vast, endless ocean. That storm will blow out as quickly as it has started and if nerdyapplebottom is not a good writer who continuously delivers the "goods", so to speak, people will turn from that post and find another person to idolize, however briefly. While I do not know her, I suspect she is as freaked out as HELL at the attention that post got.

Her point was apt. Gender issues are hot parenting topics. ESPECIALLY every time we see another law struck down which prevents consenting adults Choose to honor each other through a legal marriage commitment. I mean, the conservatives use it all the time "THINK OF THE CHILDREN!"

Onto the 2nd point. I think only You can answer that. And it isn't an easy question to come to terms with, within yourself.

We each blog for different reasons. I came to my own decision that I blog for My Truth. To Tell the Whole of my Story, and Emily (and Terrance) are part of that story. Will she be embarrassed someday? Maybe. I don't know. I am sure she will find a whole lot of things to be pissed off at me about...the least of which will be my stories about her.

However, I HOPE my stronger message to Her is that I am flawed. I am imperfect and human and goofy and crazy and that I do the best I can. (Ha-Ha! A little Joke) I grew up with secrets and a mom whose main mantra was "we don't talk about family outside the House!" - which led to a terribly toxic stew of dysfunction.

But thats Me, Kelli. Only You can suss out what it is exactly you want from blogging and where you are prepared to take it.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Ah, Dawn, I love you more than my luggage.

I came from a family that doesn't even talk about the family WITHIN the family. Seriously, you have to verify, then cross-verify with a few family members to get a single story 90% correct.

You brought up some more points to ponder. Sigh.

The Gori Wife said...

I didn't know of her blog until I saw it linked somewhere earlier this week, and I feel pretty much the same way you do about it. And the thing about a small & intimate readership is that maybe Nerdy Apple Bottom had a small family readership too, beforehand (I don't know..) But really, it just takes a few hours to go from a few readers to tens of thousands of comments, if you strike the right chord. And sometimes the oddest things strike people's chords. At least in my blogging experience. I keep my kid pretty much off the blog except pictures of the back of his head and referenced only as "the kid" or "the baby" but I have irrational fears. I big puffy heart love that you shared more about your kids because (as I've said many times before and you might be tired of hearing it) your window into having kids with a desi guy was the only picture I had for years before I jumped on that band wagon.

Leah B said...

Always a lurker, but felt I needed to comment on this post. I was having the same debate with myself this morning. I am not a blogger, but do read many blogs [including yours!] quite regularly. When I first came across the link to her original blog post I thought "good for you for letting you son dress up as what he wants and not bow to whatever the moms in your class think. And great point about girls who dress up as boys!, etc..." However, as people started reposting parts of her post [instead of linking to it] and his picture I became more uncomfortable with it. There is one thing to put this out there on his mom's blog, there is another to be seeing it on moms sites and other places where there is no control given to the original writer. The whole thing has left me feeling unsettled. I can identify with what you wrote today and it really made sense to me.
I second the thought that I am not throwing any stones ... just trying to figure out my own thoughts on this all.

Hope all that rambling made some sort of sense.

Kerry said...

I think the internet may not really be the issue your kids' lives, the people whose opinions will matter most to them will be the ones they actually see and interact with, and who probably see and interact with their mom too. You can either be the mom that can't resist the temptation to tell that HILARIOUS story about the time they were two and they tried to hump the cat, or open your heart to every passing stranger about the penis surgery they had to have when they were five, or you can not be that mom. Whether you're doing it on the internet or on the sidelines at soccer practice is really besides the point. My mom was pretty reserved, and I appreciate that and expect that I will replicate it for my own kids...but I hear a lot of those other mom's kids grow up into happy healthy people too.

(And btw, Hi! I read your blog all the time but never comment)

Moderndayhermit said...

I have a very different perspective on this post.

My son is very much a very typical boy. He gets dirty, he plays with your typical 'boy' toys and all the typical boy things.

However there is a side of him that is a sensitive artist, he always notices if a woman has on nice shoes and if her hair looks pretty, he likes nail polish, he's gone through a phase where he wants his hair in pony tails and he likes princess movies, the color pink and likes his hair fixed a certain way.

I get her post because my son is somewhat like her son. Is my son gay? Hell if I know. Is he straight? I don't know. Bi? Or, just simply a lady's man? Do I care? Nope.

Whenever my son does something that seems girly I am met with questions of his sexuality. At five.

Could a post such as this one be available for scrutiny in 5, 10, 15 years? Who knows.

One thing I wish for my son is that no matter what he is (minus a serial killer etc, lol) is that he's happy about it. That he's not afraid to show it. And if I've done my job correctly than a post such as that shouldn't bother him at all.

One thing that I really have to thank my Mom for, despite us not being a family that communicated a lot ... if while growing up I'd complain that someone said something to me about who I was or made a comment she'd say, "So what?!?! Why do you care what they think? Does it matter? Are you bugging them? If they don't like it that is THEIR problem, not yours."

Fuckin' A.

kreed said...

Hmmm. I don't even know where I want to go with this one. I guess I didn't even think about the ramifications for this blogger and her son, much less about any potential issues for myself, kids or rest of the family when I blog.

Hmmm. I think I need to think on this one some more...

Melanie said...

The whole privacy issue is why I do not blog (despite the fact that I actually would love to do so). I promised myself that I would not start until I had the boundaries firmly in place and that I was ok with that.. but the bottom line, I cannot clearly define what the boundaries are or should be for my family. I ADORE reading blogs about other Mom's and seeing pictures of all the gorgeous children bring me daily bits of joy (because how can you not smile when you see obviously happy children) however, in the back of my mind is always "what will this do for the future".... kids are already damaging their employability by what they freely post on FB and the like (my sister is in HR and routinely does web searches for all potential new hires).... and I am thankful that such things did not exist during my teen and college years.... but now we have to wonder, will kids "google" other kids for the sole purpose of gaining ammo against them? I honestly don't know, but I would feel horrific if something I innocently typed became something that my children were teased or tormented by.

As for the post you referenced, while I love the message (I also have a 5 yr old son, who attended church preschool before kindergarten this year) I immediately felt uncomfortable with the picture posted.... not because it was wrong (I don't believe it was) but because the child's right to privacy was breeched, and with such a hot topic issue I have to wonder, will he be proud or upset that his photo became the face of a worthy cause?

Moderndayhermit said...

I always notice that people bring up a child's right to privacy. Which I agree with, it's a valid argument.

However, children will ALWAYS find something to use as fodder for their classmates. ALWAYS. Shouldn't we as parents be focused on how to make our children strong enough to be resilient in such attacks rather than using a "hide and hope they don't find out" method?

I remember having an argument with a friend's father over 12 years ago. His argument against bi-racial couples? That potential children that could come of the relationship would experience the scrutiny of others for being different.

Moderndayhermit said...

Sorry to spam your comment section with my comments. I'm just sitting at home and thinking about this post A LOT. In any case.

I think the reason why people are getting all up in arms about this is because they find his behavior to be potentially embarrassing because it's not normal. Ergo: something to be swept under the rug and not discussed.

If the post said, "Yes, my son is straight, he likes to play with trucks." There wouldn't be a problem. No one would complain about it being a privacy issue. Why not? Because it's "NORMAL".

And that in itself is the problem.

It's not embarrassing. Why should it be? What's to be embarrassed about? That as a 5-year-old he went through a phase or that he is actually homosexual. So what?!?!

By not talking about it we are saying, "Look, we don't care if you are this way but we do think it's different and not normal so we really prefer you not talk about it and better if we pretend it doesn't exist. You know, just in case."

I find that to be almost as bad because it's sends the exact same message as those who are outright against homosexuality. It's not normal and something to be ashamed of.

Melanie said...

I would just like to follow up, I did not think that the topic was one that should be swept under the rug or not talked about... quite the contrary I think by having dialogue about things like this, we further educate ourselves and become better people (because I firmly believe prejudice comes from ignorance). I also am not "up in arms" because I think its potentially embarrassing, what I am wondering is looking back at my own childhood, back when everything was full of drama, hormones and worry and everything was SUCH A BIG DEAL... how would I have felt if my parents had blogged about me?? How would I have felt if my friends stumbled across it??

I read another blog about this very topic where a 17 year old girl commented that her mom blogged about when she got her period and it was very traumatic for her, she then went on to say that it changed her Mother/daughter relationship because she was afraid if she divulged too much of anything that it might become a topic for her Mom's blog. I could go and tell this 17 year old that she really had nothing to be embarrassed about, that its a totally normal thing to get her period, but she has the right to be affected by it, her feelings are valid. I know most parents are not going to post things like that, or at least are more careful as their kids get older, but I am sure that her Mom never meant to hurt her either, and I have to wonder if she even knows now how much sharing she missed out on with her kid because of one particular post?

Christine said...

Slightly off topic but for the record because it bugs me: if you have a little girl who likes to dress in boy clothes and play with boy toys, to say that 'no one would say anything' is wrong. Dead wrong.

Trust me.

Anjali said...

I thought her post was lovely, and it's a shame she's being so attacked for it.

The reason I almost never blog about my kids is for a different reason entirely. I don't want to tell a story that is really theirs and not mine.

Maybe this blogger's son will feel pressure now to act more masculine than he really is. Maybe he'll feel pressure to come out. Maybe, because of the post, he'll never want to dress as Daphne again. Regardless, he may try to be, or not be something because his mother formed an opinion about him that she shared with others. It's a hard thing to escape.

kristen said...

I am not passing judgment about the right to privacy issue because I am not in a position to judge, but I thank God frequently that the insanity and poor choices of my childhood and teen years are not permanently recorded anywhere. Things in my past have been forgiven and forgotten as they should be. I am not saying that this child would or should ever regret this post in any way. I am talking about the what do should you post and what should you leave out issue as a whole.

I also wonder if one day we will be able to watch our children grow up with curiosity and not judgment as to whether they will be attracted to men or women, similar to the way we wonder if they will be left or right handed. My grandmother's hand was beaten until it bled to try to stop her from being left-handed. Sexuality is obviously not as trivial as handedness (is that even a word?) and has many more implications on the life they will lead. However, I hope some day it is just part of who they are and not something to changed.

Fatbottommcgee said...

My guess is this waas a huge unplanned thing for this post to be so wide read. I applaud the author for writing it, even if it was intended for her readership of 3 (and one being her mother). (I don't really know her readership, just saying)

Ah, this is so frustrating, can't we just let kids be kids, who the m.f'in cares if they wear pink or blue or green. I used to answer the phone and tell people my favorite color was rainbow. Just think if we were trying to decipher that code?!

I do however, as well, worry about the consequences of this becoming national....

Faiqa said...

I think the broader issue here is the evolution of what we define as "community" and "privacy." The Internet is living, breathing community. As with any community, there are people who don't have any problems talking about their children's lives, and there are people who as one commenter above stated, (paraphrase) "I don't tell my kid's stories because those stories are THEIRS." For the most part, I fall into the latter category. Mostly because my MOM feel into the first one. Before there was an Internet, my mom would tell stories to her friends about my brother's or my "shenanigans" much to our embarrassment. Now, I'm not saying she did anything wrong, I'm just saying... well, some people view their kids as an extension of their own experience and some don't. That is not new. What is new, of course, is the highly public nature of that sharing, now.

I don't know if I'm making my point well enough, but I think that this is a societal turning point in general with regards to the way we define a community. A community used to be where you lived and who you associated with in person. I suspect that as our children become adults, that word is going to have an entirely different meaning for them. Case in point, I have about 300 friends on Facebook, only about 10% of those people, I haven't met n person. My 19 year old cousin has almost 1000, MOST of whom she has not met in person. Yet, much to my DISMAY, she shares her updates, pictures, etc. with these people she doesn't even know.

Our children's definition of "privacy," I imagine, is going to deviate significantly from our own.